North Central College and the city of Naperville are taking the first steps toward building a new park and plaza along the DuPage River.
The first phase of engineering on a future plaza at 430 S. Washington St. intended to highlight the college's history in Naperville has gotten under way as workers from Engineering Resource Associates are assessing the site.
The city's Riverwalk Commission has allocated $62,500 for the first phase of engineering before more detailed designs can be completed.
"We're all waiting to see how the engineering process goes before we take further steps," said Jim Godo, the college's assistant vice president for external relations.
The park will be built just north of the Burger King on Washington Street at the former site of a 1930s-era retail building many in Naperville called an "eyesore." The college bought the foreclosed property for $450,000, and the city spent $50,000 to tear down the old building before site work on the future park could begin.
Preliminary plans call for an electronic sign advertising North Central College, a sloped open space leading down to the DuPage River and a plaza to recognize the college's history in Naperville since 1870. Plans also include a sculpture to highlight the college's tradition of strong cross country teams and a new segment of the Riverwalk path connecting the lower walkway under Washington Street to the Moser Bridge near the football stadium.
Godo said decisions about exactly where to put the sign and sculpture can be made once engineering reports are complete.
Other work set to begin after the first phase of engineering includes stormwater modeling, which is necessary to receive a permit from DuPage County because the site is along the river, and soil quality evaluation to ensure there is no contamination from the property's former uses as a dry cleaners, a gas station, a car repair shop and other stores.
North Central College voluntarily has entered the property in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's site remediation program and is seeking a letter saying no further cleanup is necessary.
"We went to the IEPA and said 'We'd like to work with you on remediating the property so we can create a park for the community,'" Godo said.
Officials hope to begin construction on the $2.2 million project next year.